Dress British Drink Yiddish: The SeaPea Fizz Cocktail

Another cocktail created by Jewish mixological giant Frank Meier, the head bartender at the Paris Ritz in the mid-20th century. This is both a tremendously simply drink, and, for some drinkers, utterly terrifying. Two of the ingredients, after all, are absinthe and egg white, and these are the sorts of ingredients that make the timid imbiber swallow hard once and think twice. Let's tackle them one at a time.

People make such a fuss about absinthe, and I can't peer down my nose at them, as much as I would like too, because I once did too. It's a drink that was outlawed in the United States in 1912 and only became legal again in 2007, and absence, in this case, makes the heart grow stranger. All sorts of folktales sprang up about the drink: It was toxic, it was hallucinogenic, it was a drink that produced muse-like visions for the waiting artist.

Never mind that there were already anise liqueurs that were pretty much exactly like absinthe, such as Pernod, which was produced by a former absinthe manufacturer, and Herbsaint, which was used as an absinthe substitute in many classic cocktails that called for absinthe. Both lacked an ingredient -- namely, the bitter wormwood that made absinthe so legendary -- but worked in a pinch, and still work. Quite a few modern absinthes are meant to be drunk straight or with water, and so have an especially potent flavor that risks overpowering a cocktail. I still make my sazaracs with Herbsaint, and prefer them that way. I find it useful to forget all the fairy stories about absinthe and just treat it as another cocktail ingredient, and, sometimes, it's not the best option.

I think it is for this drink, however, because the cocktail is meant to highlight the absinthe flavor. Like a lot of Meier's cocktails, it favors the flavor of lemon, and lemon goes really well with asbinthe, both mellowing the drinks bitterness and making the anise flavor pop. I don't know that it is the best absinthe cocktail I have ever had, but this is the one that best showcases the flavor of the absinthe.

So what about the egg white? Well, the drink is a fizz, which indicates citrus and seltzer, but recalls one specific drink: The Ramos Gin Fizz, where sugar and extreme shaking emulsify the egg white, creating a light, frothy drink with a marvelous head, like an alcoholic cloud. This is that, but with absinthe rather than gin, and is marvelous in the way -- absinthe is the sort of drink that seems like it should be dense, as it is the sort of thing poets contemplating suicide would drink. But this makes the drink light and buoyant, an absinthe for the rest of us who prefer our drinking with a little less brooding.

And that is as it should be, as the drink was named after one of the lightest and most buoyant men of Meier's era: The songwriter Cole Porter, whose initials give the drink its name. Cole Porter, who was not Jewish, but who once explained his approach to songwriting to Richard Rodgers, saying "I’ll write Jewish tunes."

Here is how to make the SeaPea:
  • 3/4 ounce absinthe
  • 3/4 ounce simple syrup (1:1, sugar:water)
  • 3/4 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 egg white
  • soda water
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker; Shake without ice. Add ice and shake until well-chilled. Strain into a glass. Top with soda water.